Where are you from?
C: I currently live in San Francisco, but am a native Minnesotan and proud of it! I divide my time between Oakland where I work as a consultant specializing in strategic planning, policy research and civic engagement and in San Francisco where I live. I’m an avid biker, foodie and muralista with an extensive costume closet.
When and how did you transition into natural hair?
C: My transition can be summed up as a quest to maximize enjoyment of sunshine plus a series of last minute appointment cancellations. I got a relaxer in November of 2008 and let it grow out for a bit so I could get cornrows before heading on a 2 month adventure to Brasil. For my entire life, braids have always been hugely important in my travel because I do not have to worry about my hair at all during the trip.
Three weeks into this trip my braids were looking kind of tired and frizzy and so I found someone to do a new set for me in Salvador da Bahia, the Afro-Brazilan capitol of the entire country. Everywhere you go in the region, people are getting their hair done in public. In the streets, beneath umbrellas, at corner stores, on the beach, everywhere, it was pretty cool. I got mine done at this cultural center where people were dancing, making music, cooking, doing yoga and halfway through the 12 hours it took to do my braids, my braider, Fabiola, told me, “I’m going to give you the best advice you’ll ever receive: go natural.” And there I was in a Brasilian paradise, where there are more natural heads than not, everyone’s happy and I was like “well, I just don’t see why not”.
Then in November, it was a delightfully sunny weekend in San Francisco , and I was really sad because I was about to spend the next 12 hours inside getting new braids in rather than playing in the sun. The hedonist in me won so at the last moment, I cancelled my braid appointment and made an appointment for my Chop. And that was that! Technically I transitioned for a year between my last relaxer and Big Chop, but only 4 months of that was intentional.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
C: Not paying attention to ingredients. I bought into a product line that was heavily marketed and because of the price I just went with it and bought their products and used their styling techniques. But my hair was kind of dry and always felt sticky, but it wasn’t until I tried some cheap stuff that worked BETTER than what I was using that I began to question what I was using and if it was right for me. I’m picky about what ingredients are in my food and I need to do the same for what I put in my hair. So I did some research, made some adjustments and my hair and I are much happier!
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
C: Keeping it hydrated! My body loves water, plants love water, everything that grows loves water and so I apply this same logic to my hair. But because it takes a cool 24 hours for my hair to dry after a co-wash I keep a spritz bottle filled with water and essential oils in my office. Spritzing it allows me to start the day with much needed moisture and because I bike to work everyday, it helps me rid of the nasty combination of bed head and helmet hair that I arrive with. Whenever I take off my bike helmet and look in the mirror, I always laugh because its so funny to me how so much hair can become so flat and…trapezoidal.
I have a no-poo/co-wash regimen that uses DevaCare no-poo weekly and co-wash with Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle about 3 times a week. Then I apply some leave in (Kinky Curly Knot Today usually) and moisturize and seal with a combination of veggie glycerin, pure coconut oil, avocado oil, and jojoba oil. I do a deep condition about once a week by adding honey and olive oil to a conditioner and leaving it on for as long as possible. I want to buy as many of my products as possible from a grocery store! Not in terms of big commercial brands, but raw, natural ingredients. Salons and products didn’t exist 300 years ago, and people were taking care of their hair with the natural goodies found around them, so there’s no reason I can’t do the same!
Your wash-n-go looks awesome! How do you achieve that look?
- Co-wash using something creamy and thick with lots of slip, really making sure I massage and clean my scalp and roots.
- Condition using either the same conditioner or another ( I switch between Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut and Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Conditioners) and really focus on the ends and making sure they’re well coated. If there are any big snarls, I’ll get them out doing some finger detangling.
- Plop with a t-shirt for 20–30 minutes which reduces my drying time by 8 hours
- Apply a leave in (Kinky Curly Knot Today), moisturizer (grocery store bought veggie glycerin—it’s great for my climate), and seal with an oil (extra virgin coconut oil). Now my hair is prepped.
- Style by taking about 3″ sections of hair and smoothing on a styling gel such as Kinky Curly Curling Custard or Eco Styler. I do this all the way around my head, making sure that each section “slips” through my fingers and stretch out the curls as I apply. This usually takes about 15 — 20 minutes. Any longer and I feel as though I’ve spent too much time.
- Shake it out! I shake my hair side to side and with my head upside down to give it volume and let the curls get in position for setting
Then for the next couple days, all I do is spritz, shake, and go!
What’s the best thing about being natural?
C: Two things come to mind: 1. that I no longer have to fight a part of myself that I was born with. I mean it took a lot of effort, time, and money to get it to do the opposite of what it does naturally and I’m totally over that! I’m now at peace with my hair and I feel as though my hair, now thriving and curly and bouncy, is at peace with me! 2. that I no longer have to avoid rain, swimming, showering without a shower cap— all these regular activities that require water I can now dive into [literally] without thinking twice! In fact, as I mentioned earlier, my hair loves water! Bring on the agua! It is such a great feeling!
And finally, how does your hair express who you are?
C: It’s unique, it’s distinctive, it’s healthy, it’s happy, it’s fun, it likes to eat well (including the occasional expensive, 5 course meal), it’s particular in its tastes and really enjoys vacations (protective styles).